Yes, 2013. We already know who the first round picks will be for 2012, or rather, have a very good idea as to who they will be. The list of possible first round choices for this season includes Albert Pujols, Troy Tulowitzki, Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez, among many others. But, I am here today to talk about some hitters who could be first round picks for NEXT year. That is 2013. Why is that important? Because, to be a first round pick in 2013, you must have a very good 2012.
To put together this list, I took at look at hitters who have an average draft position of 50 or higher according to Mock Draft Central. The list and my reasons for selecting these hitters are after the jump:
The 5 hitters who I think could be first round picks in 2013 are the following:
1. Brett Lawrie, TOR (ADP 54.95)
I think, if all goes well, Lawrie has the best shot of the 5 listed here to be a first round pick in 2013. He comes with an excellent bat, solid power and enough speed to steal 20+ bases. For a third baseman, he is David Wright circa 2005-2006. He may not drive in over 100 runs, but he can hit 20+ HRs and steal 20+ bases. ESPN's Dan Szymborski projects Lawrie to hit .275-.333-.498 with 27 HRs, 79 RBI and 24 stolen bases. I think he could hit for a slightly better BA and drive in a few more runs. But the point is, he could be a first round pick in 2013 if he exceeds Dan's projections.
2. Eric Hosmer, KC (ADP 52.92)
Hosmer is another hitter who I like a lot. Many say he will be the next Joey Votto, and they could be right. But the question is when? He has the ability to hit around .290 with 25+ HRs, 90 RBIs and steal 10-15 bags and I think he can approach those numbers as soon as 2012. Royals manager Ned Yost seems to always have the green light on when runners get on first base, so Hosmer could eclipse 15 steals in 2012. Szymborski projects "Hos" to hit .304-.354-.474 with 20 HRs, 81 RBI and 14 stolen bases. Hos won't be a first rounder with those numbers, but if he can outperform my projection, I think he could be a first round pick.
3. Matt Wieters, BAL (ADP 97.37
Wieters is a guy who I think could break out in a big way this season. His overall numbers in 2011 were good-.262-.328-.450 with 22 HRs and 68 RBI, but he hit 14 of his HRs in the second half and increased his SLG from .406 in the first half to .504 in the second half. He doesn't strike out a lot, but could stand to walk a bit more. Bill James projects him to hit .281-.353-.468 with 21 HRs and 76 RBI. I think Wieters could outperform James' projection and hit 25-28 HRs and drive in 85-90 runs in 2012. Does that get him into the first round in 2013? Probably not, but if he were to hit 30 bombs and drive in 90+ runs, with a BA of .285, he could be considered a first round pick in 2013.
4. Jason Heyward, ATL (ADP 106.34)
Everyone knows how disappointing Heyward was in 2011, as he hit just .227-.319-.389 with 14 HRs, 42 RBI, 50 runs and 9 stolen bases. It was a lost season for sure, but that does not mean he can't return to the guy everyone was projecting to improve upon his 2010 rookie season. I projected Heyward to hit around .290 with 25 HRs, 90 RBI and around 15-20 stolen bases heading into the 2011 season, and I think he can still reach those numbers in 2012. He would have to exceed my projections to get into the first round in 2013, but he has the bat and the power to do so.
5. Alex Gordon, KC (ADP 61.66)
Yes, another Royal on the list, but Gordon is a hitter who broke out, finally, in 2011, and many other fantasy writers do not expect him to repeat his breakout season in 2012. I am one of the few that thinks he can. What would he have to do to be a first round pick in 2013? I think if he can improve his power totals to 30 HRs and he steals 20+ bases with a .300 BA, he could be considered as a first round pick in 2013. He would need to turn some of his 45 doubles in 2011 into home runs in 2012, but it is not out of the realm of possibility. Gordon turned 28 a few weeks ago, so he is in his peak years as a major leaguer.
When making your list of targeted players for draft day, you need to look at how the hitter has performed in prior years, but more importantly, you need to project how the hitter will perform THIS year. Every year, there are players who break out and players who bust. Figuring how who will break out and continue to grow as a hitter/pitcher can help win a fantasy baseball championship. And figuring out who can make the jump to the next level before your fellow owners is critical as well. Sometimes, taking a hitter a round early can pay dividends later in the season.